I’m not about to suggest that he pours in jumpers like Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant, but with God as my witness, Titus Rubles makes a good percentage of his outside shots at UC basketball practices. Unfortunately, that has rarely carried over to the games in his two years with the Bearcats.
“I don’t know why – I wish I had the answer,” said UC assistant coach Darren Savino. “I know in the drills that he doesn’t hesitate and he makes a high percentage. In the games it seems that he’s hesitant and that’s a tough thing to get over.”
“When you’re missing shots you’re like, ‘Dang, I make these all day in practice,'” Rubles told me. “But what I keep telling myself is that my day is going to come. I’m just going to keep working.”
Despite his shooting woes, Rubles has been a major reason why the Bearcats are 46-17 in his two seasons and headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
“Titus Rubles is our heart and soul,” said head coach Mick Cronin. “He gives everybody on the team confidence because he’s afraid of nothing. What he may lack in skill level in terms of shooting the basketball, he definitely makes up for it with fortitude, toughness, and in being a fearless competitor.”
“He’s one of those intangible guys,” said Sean Kilpatrick. “He sets screens that allow me to get open, he rebounds, he dives on the floor – there are a lot of things that he does that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
“Titus Rubles gives you everything that coaches talk about that fans really don’t understand sometimes,” said Cronin. “They say, ‘Coach is always talking about toughness when they need to get some scorers.’ Let me tell you something. Titus Rubles’ toughness is a big reason why we’re sitting here at 24-5.”
That trait caught Coach Savino’s eye from the very beginning.
“The first time that I saw Titus play was at a JUCO jamboree,” said Savino. “I was watching random games and trying to find guys that we didn’t know about and instantly he stood out with his toughness and aggressiveness. He had what I call, ‘The look of a Bearcat.’ I watched him the rest of the weekend and he did a lot of things that fit what we do and I thought Coach Cronin would like him and his style of play.”
“We will sorely, sorely miss him next year when he is gone because that is stuff that comes from within,” said Cronin. “You can’t go into the gym and work on having a fearless attitude every day. That means wins, although it doesn’t show in the box score. I can’t imagine where we would be without him.”
And while Rubles is only averaging 7.0 points a game, he probably scored Cincinnati’s most important basket of the year so far – the game-winning bucket with four seconds left to beat Pitt in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Rubles calls it the highlight of his UC career.
“It is, and the place that it happened made it a highlight too,” said Rubles. “I still have the headband that I was wearing when I hit the shot. I’ll probably never wash it.”
“The tougher the game, the bigger the moment, the tougher the environment; the more physical he plays and the more he gets done,” said Cronin.
On senior night vs. Memphis, the loudest cheers will undoubtedly be reserved for Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, but Rubles deserves a lengthy ovation as well.
“Titus has made as much of an impact as any two-year player here in a long, long time,” said Cronin.
“I feel like I made a really good decision coming here,” Rubles told me. “I’ve been on two teams that have been in the Top 10 and that doesn’t happen for a lot of JUCO guys. I really like the city of Cincinnati and this has been a really good experience for me. It’s crazy that it’s coming to an end. It seems like it’s gone by so fast.”
“To win a war you’ve got to have some soldiers, and he’s a soldier,” said Cronin.
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